Heaven is for Real…if You Earn It: Bloomberg Shows a Way

At the close of an interview with the New York Times this week, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg had this to say about heaven:

Mr. Bloomberg was introspective as he spoke, and seemed both restless and wistful. When he sat down for the interview, it was a few days before his 50th college reunion. His mortality has started dawning on him, at 72. And he admitted he was a bit taken aback by how many of his former classmates had been appearing in the “in memoriam” pages of his school newsletter.

But if he senses that he may not have as much time left as he would like, he has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

Before you become too critical of Bloomberg, take a moment to consider whether or not you share his religion.  Dr. David Martin Lloyd-Jones, the British pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, used a very simple diagnostic question to determine if people understood and embraced Christianity or were adherents to religion.  Jones would ask a person “Are you a Christian?”  If they answered with, “I’m trying,” or “I’m doing the best I can to be Christian,” or “I hope so,” he knew the person did not understand what Christianity is.  What Bloomberg said, and what many many people BLOOMBERG-master675believe, is that the power to get into heaven, or to be pleasing to God, rests with us.  It is our job to be good; to do good, and it is God’s job to call balls and strikes.  And in the end we expect God will give us all a very generous strike zone because He is kind and generous and loving.  Is that what you believe?  Is it up to you to keep the Ten Commandments or follow the Golden Rule or to be generous with your stuff?  If so, then you shouldn’t be too critical of the Mayor because he is only telling your story with more confidence than most of us can muster.  He is sure his life will measure up.  He is so sure that his record is acceptable that he doesn’t even think it needs double checking at heaven’s gate.

That gate may be somewhere, but it isn’t the gateway to heaven that any Christian is looking for.  The Christian gospel is not our record offered to God for his acceptance, it is Jesus’s record given to us.  Are you a Christian?  Yes or no is the only correct answer.  There is no earning it.  It is a gift.  The whole Bible shows this pattern.  Abram gets God’s promise of land and blessing and seed before he did anything notable.  Moses is a washed up shepherd who ran away from a murder rap when God chooses him.  God rescues all of Israel from slavery before he gives them the Ten Commandments, not after they obeyed them.

The God of the Bible consistently gives away his endorsement to people who don’t deserve it; to people who have not earned it.  The final and full expression of this is Jesus.  Jesus earns a perfect record with perfect performance of human life.  This is a whole other topic worth considering – that when you see Jesus its not that we are just looking at a sinless life (no mistakes or nothing that makes God angry) its that we are seeing what a completely full human life looks like.  This life earns Jesus a place before God like none other.  Jesus then gives away his record to anyone who asks for it.  Good people don’t get it.  Bad people are not excluded.  Anyone can have it.  The only thing you have to do is accept a complete record swap.  You have to take all his record and give up all your record.  None of our marks transfer.  None of our good marks – the ones we’re really proud of – come with us, and none of our bad marks – the ones we’re really ashamed of – come with us either.  Complete swap.  That is the gospel and that is Christianity.  Are you a Christian?  If the answer is yes, you can have Bloomberg-like confidence in your record.  No need to even think about getting into heaven.  You already know your record “works” to get into heaven because Jesus got in with the same record and now its yours.  Pretty simple.  Thats the gospel.  Thats why gospel means “good news,” for those of us who aren’t strong and sure we can work our way into heaven.  We are going to heaven the real old fashioned way…Jesus earned it.

Arizona: There is No Such Thing as Freedom of Religion

The Governor of Arizona vetoed a bill yesterday that had a lot of people up in arms.  Did you hear what the bill was about?  I saw a lot of activity on social media with posts about discrimination and race and homosexuality.  It seemed to me the bill must be about letting people decide to discriminate against minorities if they wanted.  I assumed it must mention specific issues abridging a gay person’s rights.  Who would support that?  Stupid.  This morning I finally got around to reading the bill.  You know it is amazingly simple to get informed in our day and age.  The bill I found is only two pages long.  You can read it yourself in less than three minutes.  Even with the legalese it isn’t hard to get through it.  I was surprised at what I found.  This bill isn’t about discriminating against gay people, its about protecting people’s rights to act according to their religious beliefs.  That is what it says.  The government is not allowed to make anyone violate their conscience. It is basically nothing more than a repetition of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Personally I am very happy to have the First Amendment guaranteeing me that no one can make my wife wear a burqa or tell me I can’t read the Torah.  If you’ve looked around you know that religions ask people to believe and to do lots of things.  What to wear, what to read, what to say, when to say it, who to associate with, who you can marry…tons of stuff.  Most of it leaves somebody shaking their head one way or another.  There is no sensitive way to say this, so here it is:  freedom of religion means the freedom to act stupidly.

Now if it happens to be YOUR religion, it is the freedom to act piously or correctly or whatever, but if its someone else’s religion, that’s a different story.  We all know this or feel this, but few of us can be real enough to say it out loud.  And some religions take their particular set of beliefs and practices so seriously that venturing to criticize or laugh at state_oppression_1them will get your name on a religious hit list.  Religion is about pleasing God, improving the world and/or getting to heaven.  If you believe in God, there aren’t many things that could be more important than your religion.  Forcing someone to give up their religion’s belief structure is stealing their core identity.  It is intolerant.  It is evil.  No matter how stupid it may seem to you.

The dirty little secret, though, is that only religious people try to force their religion upon others.  The religious are both the oppressors and the oppressed.  It is the nature of religion to enslave, not to free.  If you really believe you have THE set of beliefs and behaviors that please God and that God can only be pleased by people believing and acting upon these things, you cannot help but look down upon those who don’t.  You have to relegate them to second class citizenship.  You have to oppress them either implicitly or explicitly.  You have to discriminate against them.  They are the people messing up the world by acting in ways that displease God.  They are the ones who bring judgment on all of us.

Great, you say – I was looking for someone to finally agree with me that religion is the problem so we can all agree to get rid of it.  But it isn’t so easy as that.  The absence of God or gods does not mean the absence of religion.  If you have what you think are THE set of beliefs and behaviors that will make the world a better place if everyone would just adopt them, you have the same issues as the religious people.  You don’t have a God you have a Good that you worship and serve.  You are in fact, a religious person without a religion.  And you look down upon those who don’t hold your beliefs.  You are intolerant of them and you oppress them in the name of your Good.  Your non-religious religion is just as enslaving as any other.  The fact is there is no such thing as religious freedom.

I will make a claim here that will make many of you scoff, but it is true.  The Christian gospel is not religion.  The Christian gospel is the opposite of religion.  I am not saying Christians are not guilty of religious abuses.  I am not saying Christians don’t do stupid things in the name of Christianity.  I am saying that the Bible does not teach religion.  The Bible is not the story of what we must do to please God or to get to heaven or to make the world into a great place.  The Bible tells the story of what God has done to help us, to fix what is broken, to get us to heaven and to make the world a better place.  The Christian gospel is not about bad people gradually becoming better people from the outside in by their beliefs and behaviors; it is the story of God changing people from the inside out when they start believing what he has done and that he is for them.  People who rightly believe the gospel have no business looking upon others as second class citizens because they are not keeping the right rules and holding the right beliefs.  Christians know that they are not making the world or themselves better because they keep the rules or believe the right things. They know it is a miracle of grace that they have come to believe the gospel.  They can’t give themselves any credit for it.  God is the one making everything better by what he does.  Christians don’t expect to be better people than their neighbors and have no glory in it if they are.  A Christian can only claim to be loved by God for no good reason, and because they know that the last thing love can be is coercive, they know better than to try forcing the gospel into anyone’s life.  It can’t be done.  There is no such thing as religious freedom, but there is freedom from religion.  The gospel is freedom from religion.  It is freedom to love people who really disagree with us.  It is freedom to know that God is the one who will make everything right in its time and in his way.

Why Religion Fails

A god that needs to be defended by a man is not a god worthy of being served by men.

Religion must protect itself for it has no Defender.

Religion must speak for itself for it has no Spokesman.

Religion must coerce for it has nothing Attractive in it.

Religion must act for it has no Confidence upon which to rest.

Religion is offense waiting to happen.

Religion cheapens it’s own god by placing bounties on the heads of it’s enemies.

Religion must rule for it has no Ruler.

Religion is not related to the Gospel…it is from an altogether different family and father. fruitless-large

Coptic Christians Suffer with Egyptians

images (1)What is happening is that all of Egypt is being targeted, not just the Christians,” said Fr. Dawoud, a priest at the Virgin Mary church. “Enough! People are getting sick and tired of this.” – reporting on a shooting at a Christian wedding this week

Religion cannot tolerate competition for its affections.  It will oppress, suppress, depress, or deny all people trying to live in its vicinity.